Canon…mistery of the beginning


Kwanon_Original canon cameraToday’s CEO of Canon is a grandson of the founder…..that is how people say.

But, it is not true.

Canon was originally started a movie camera technician Goro Yoshida in 1933 which is only a year later the 1st Contax came out !!

Mr. Yoshida was a movie camera technician and those days, he visited Shanghai quite often to get parts for cameras. Shanghai was quite international and was easier to get imported items there compare to Tokyo.

One day, an American guy told him

Japanese can make good war ships or air plains, so why don’t you guys make own cameras?

That was the moment Mr. Yoshida decided to make his own camera and also it was the beginning of Canon.  At the beginning, he had his brother in low Mr.Uchida as a business partner who was a wealthy financial man and Mr. Mitarai later who became the president was friend of him.

What Mr.Yoshida did was…. completely disassembled bland new Leica and Contax to see how those work.

Then, he decided to make Leica which was much more simply made.
After he disassembled Leica, he took those parts to engineering people to copy….then, replaced with originals.

Seiko….which is known for watches today helped him quite a lot too.

That was how he first made domestic Leica by himself. It sound something stupid….but those days, they could buy a house in Tokyo for 1000 yen and Leica was 600 yen!!
Buy the way, their first product Hansa Canon was 350 yen and that was completely hand-made. They could build 1/week at beginning!!!

There is a copy of famous magazine ad. of early Canon which was originally called Kwanon camera in 1934.
Ad. of Kwanon camera
It says

Submarine….I-1
Air plane…..Type 92
Camera…..Kwanon
All best of the world !!
Imports which we can’t re-export is waste for our valuable resource .

When you see the image, you can see a film advance knob in front of the body like Contax.
Although he started as Leica copy, there was already his originality. Truth was….he wanted to make Contax rather than Leica.

Mr.Yoshida stayed at the company for only a year. During the time, he says he made 10 Kwanons…..but nobody has seen them partly because he was the only engineer at that time.

There are total 4 different type of Ads.of Kwanon Camera and later one does not have film advanced knob in front and their 1st product “Hansa Canon” looks quite similar to final version of Kwanon camera’s illustration. This means I think it was nearly ready on the mechanical side by the time Mr.Yoshida left.

Just to mass-produce, they had to borrow hands from Nikon for the optical side.

Today, there is a camera called Kwanon  kept in head office of Canon and it is considered as one of the original Kwanon.

But, Mr. Yhoshida denied that was his project. Also funny thing was….Canon has always in Tokyo, but this Kwanon was discovered in Osaka after the WW2. But, at least he admitted the lens was his….It is funny story again….Kwanon’s Lens mount is original one. This means someone modified a camera for the lens…..

After Mr.Yoshida left Canon, he was keep working as movie camera engineer or helped to start-up “Nikka Camera” which were the dead copy of Leica to supply for army.

But, after the war, he never did anything with cameras and even did not talk anything about Kwanon cameras.

The founder Mr.Yoshida was there for only a year, the business partner Mr.Uchida left in 5 years…..then, that was the time, Mr.Mitarai became a president of Canon.

Even Canon’s history talks very little about those 2 founders and Mr. Yoshida did not talk a lot. Even we don’t find Mr.Uchida in Wikipedia today.

That is how, The beginning of Canon is like Lost history. Nobody who knows about today alive and the history is lost forever unless someone discover original Kwanon!!

Thing is….he did not want to talk about cameras anymore…..that would be the reason he denied about the Kwanon which exist today.

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